by Khuselwa Wedama, former Youth Club Camper
I joined Camp Sizanani in 2007. At first, I thought that the vochellis [camp counselors] were just scaring us about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but after 8 months at the Youth Club near where I stay, I went to the camp and that’s where I got to see pictures of how STIs affect people’s health. When I saw the pictures, I decided to keep attending the youth club because I needed to learn more about life. I had also made new friends from Soweto during the camp, so my mind was made up.
When we returned from the camp, we were given career guidance during youth club meetings. There was a lot that I had not taken into consideration before. I learned about choosing the right subjects at school in preparation for my future career, the grades that I needed to achieve to get a bursary [tuition assistance] for tertiary education and the different learnerships [scholarships] available for young people. I found this information very useful and invited my friends from school to join the Youth Club. My friends joined the club, and we used everything we had learned from Camp Sizanani to pass our matric exams [final exams before graduating].
My friends and I made sure that we passed our matric exams before having babies. At Camp Sizanani we were taught that in life, nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. We learned that that "books come before boys because boys before books bring babies." I passed my matric exams with 2 distinctions and 4 Exemptions. After graducation, I enrolled into the University of South Africa (UNISA) for a degree in teaching. My first year was good, I passed with 3 distinctions and 2 exemptions. Then I got pregnant.
I was scared because the vochellis had taught me that even after having sex once, there is a chance of getting pregnant. I was also angry at myself for being careless, but it was also a relief to know that I was not infected with HIV or STIs. I then remembered Vochelli Sizakele telling us that everyone mistakes, but we can learn from them. Making a wrong choice in life doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. You can always change the way you do things. So, I decided not to drop out of University. I had the right to education and it was my responsibility to take care of my baby.
I kept all the valuable lessons I had learned at Camp Sizanani and Youth Clubs while studying at UNISA. I graduated in 2017 and am now working as a qualified teacher because of Camp Sizanan's programsi. I wish Camp Sizanani and Youth Clubs could expand to the rest of South Africa. Many children and young people in the country are not exposed to opportunities and educational programs like Sizanani.
I would like to thank all the vochellis, especially those from Poortjie (where I stayed as a teenager) and of course, Phil for founding Camp Sizanani. You have touched so many lives out there, all my friends from the Poortjie Youth Clubs are now working. Even though we no longer live in Poortjie, we still use what you taught us during our teenage years at Camp Sizanani.